COLLEGE PARK -- After the graduation of Dez Wells, Maryland needed a starting-caliber shooting guard this offseason if it wanted to take itself from a Top 15 school to a legitimate national title contender.
So head coach Mark Turgeon looked to a player with whom he and assistant Dustin Clark have had a relationship since that player was in middle school -- Rasheed Sulaimon.
After being dismissed from the Duke basketball program, Sulaimon was working to finish his degree in order to be able to transfer and be eligible to play immediately at the school of his choice to play out his final year of eligibility.
“I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know who to trust. I didn’t know what to believe in,” Sulaimon told CSN at the team’s media day last month.
“There’s no one in America that I trust more than Coach Turgeon and when I was making my decision, that’s what factored in the most.”
Sulaimon had been a five-star recruit coming out of high school and in Houston, Texas. Turgeon, not far away while at Texas A&M, was trying to keep in-state talent at home.
He would ultimately choose Duke, but Turgeon would remain in contact with Sulaimon and his family throughout his college career. When the opportunity arose again, the time appeared to be right.
“I know he was a good kid that was raised the right way,” Turgeon told CSN. “I know what’s inside of him. I know he’s a good kid. He just needed a chance. He needed someone that believed in him and I do.”
Sulaimon fills Maryland’s biggest need after Wells’ departure. He is a dogged defender on the perimeter, even in the team’s relaxed scrimmage at last month’s Midnight Madness when he stuck to sophomore Jared Nickens on that end of the floor.
But he is also a threat offensively. As a freshman at Duke when he got a full 29 minutes per game, he averaged 11.6 points while shooting 37 percent from three-point range. He is far from a defensively specialist, though he is probably the team’s best perimeter defender.
He adds to a team that is already versatile, giving Turgeon the ability to make him a featured scorer or even use him as a primary ball handler in certain lineups.
“It’s a new start for him, it’s a last chance for him,” Turgeon said. “So he’s totally bought in and working really hard and he’s doing a lot of things to help our team with leadership just understanding been there experience type things.”